How the Doc Savage Novel ‘Bleeding Sun’ Came to Be

Feb 13, 2012 by

Reprinted from DocSavage.Info March 2001

shenanigan: “a playful or mischievous act; a prank.”

At first Bleeding Sun was a shenanigan. In 1998, a few attendees of Pulpcon pretended there was a Doc Savage novel named Bleeding Sun. There wasn’t. That was the fun.

Now it really is a novel. A fine work of fiction written by a true Brother of Bronze. No longer can anyone say, “The Bleeding Sun doesn’t exist. It’s a hoax.” No one can claim to own all the Doc Savage novels if they don’t have Bleeding Sun. (2012 Note: Finding the novel is possible. You just have to ask the right person at the Pulpfest dealer room.)

Then again maybe it wasn’t really a shenanigan. Maybe we just pretended to “discover” what already existed. For those who weren’t there…and only a few of us were… here is the true story of the Bleeding Sun….

In the summer of 1998 I attended my second Pulpcon. The year before I had a great time and I was looking for more of the same. This year was to be even better. Fate wanted me to meet my (then) future wife, Catherine. Thank you, Fate.

We did all the usual Doc Savage fan activities. We spent hours in the dealer room looking for coverless magazines and pristine Bantam’s. We sat and thumbed though a near mint copy of The Man of Bronze. We oohed and ahhed over Jay Ryan’s detailed account of the publishing history of Doc Savage. We argued over the relative merits of the various authors. We learned the difference between “e”, “e”, and “e.”

We were Doc fans at “the” convention. All those years of being the only Doc fan in town were forgotten as we had a great time. You won’t find a more dedicated group of crazy and inventive people than at Pulpcon.

The event that would reverberate for months in Doc fandom started with a simple comment over Jay’s book, “What if Jay had missed something?”

The cartoons are right: light bulbs literally appear over our heads.

Email excerpt 8-23-1998 I know it was in the dealer room where the subject was first mentioned. I know that we had been discussing the rather high price that was put on Doc doubles by some of the dealers. — Bill

The story developed over the next two days. The principal members of the shenanigan operated the more popular Doc Savage websites. People looked to us for information on Doc Savage.

What if we quietly inserted information about a Doc Savage novel that had been published by Bantam? A novel that never existed, but that would seem to be as real as any of the others.

Primarily over a single dinner we developed our “back story.” Our Doc Savage was novel scheduled to run late 1945 but was pulled at the last second. The editors at Street and Smith thought the novel was too wrapped up in the war to be published after VJ Day. So the manuscript was filed away until Bantam discovered it 30 years later. Of course they would publish it! Bantam editors would remember the cash they had reaped over The Red Spider.

We decided to insert the novel as Bantam Number 127. That’s when the novels went to Bantam Omnis. Our #127 would be the last numbered Bantam Doc Savage. We all knew that a Bantam 127/128 double had been announced but was pulled in favor of the first omni edition. It would only confuse the issue more.

Next, we had to have a novel synopsis. We attacked the story logically. Since it was to be set at the end of the war it needed to feature the war in the Pacific. The Japanese empire was called the rising sun. We bandied about plays on such words as “sun” “red” “blood” and “setting sun.” We thought about the red sun of the Japanese flag, which took us to “Bloody Sun” and finally to Bleeding Sun.

That would be our title: To Die Under a Bleeding Sun. Of course, Bantam would have shortened that to Bleeding Sun.

You may have noticed I haven’t identified all of the names of the perps of the shenanigan. I’ll leave it up to the dedicated Savageoligist to uncover the posts and interview the participants. Suffice it to say that we numbered at least seven and each had his or her role.

The story and title developed over an otherwise forgettable dinner. During the next day we would identify certain needs to carry out the shenanigan. We needed a blurb. I volunteered to write one. I had just completed an interview with the original Bantam blurb writer, Nick D’Annuzio, and thought I was up to the task.

Chris Kalb not only operated the prime Doc Savage website but was also an award-winning artist. (Later someone claimed the art had been put together by some “idiot with photoshop.”) He agreed to make up a Doc Savage cover….using Photoshop. We didn’t want to make it too hard to figure out.

Email excerpt 8-4-1998 The cover might be a little too nice considering the cheap crap Bantam put on the fronts of the first omni. BTW, looking at the list there’s plenty of time between the doubles (mar 85) and omnis (aug 86). –Chris

We would place that cover and blurb on all of our sites. There would be no special announcement. We wanted it to seem like it had been there all along. Crazy, huh?

I was taking quite a few pictures of the festivities. The previous year I had posted them on the Hidalgo Trading Company along with a record of the event. To sell the shenanigan, I took a picture of Catherine holding up a novel she had purchased. Chris finished the cover and digitally placed it on Catherine’s novel.

Now we had a picture of someone holding Bleeding Sun. It had to exist! We went home and started fixing our sites. Someone noticed the picture of Catherine and asked about Bleeding Sun. I feigned surprise they didn’t own a copy.

The story started to unravel when a copy was placed on eBay. I know it sounds like we were pushing our luck, but it seemed to make sense at the time. Only one person bid on the novel and he laughed when he learned of the joke.

One participant tried to enlist someone outside the group to help. In retrospect, that was the beginning of the end.

Accusations, recriminations and many angry Usenet posts later the word was out. We had pulled a fast one. No one was really hurt and the alt.fan.doc-savage newsgroup was more alive than it had been for months.

Most laughed when they discovered the joke. We had a few emails thanking us for injecting some fun into fandom. I think the following two comments were representative of the majority response to the shenanigan:

Usenet excerpt Aug 13, 1998 As I happen to have been one of the people who actually bid on “Bleeding Sun” and therefore was “taken” by the “hoax”, I want to say to one and all, “Relax”. I appreciate the laugh and I really appreciate the fact that the only thing I lost was some time placing a bid on Ebay. It was a masterful hoax, and I applaud its originators. If, however, in any real or imagined guilt they may or may not feel, they desire to commit acts of restitution, I will gladly accept, though I do not compel this action, help in getting the last 3 Doc PB’s that I need for my collection.
Sincerely, Marcel Allen Lamb

Email 1-16-99 Just wanted you to know I fell for the Bleeding Sun book scam, and loved it! You have to understand I was in a vulnerable state when I saw it, I had just been at J__ G_____ site and found out the hardcover versions of the Bantam pb’s exist so I thought anything was possible. Thanks, Mike S_______

I tried to write Marcel recently. I wonder if he finally completed his collection? Maybe he bought those three to reach his Nirvana. I hope someone sends him a copy of Bleeding Sun so he will truly discover “completion peace.”

Chuck Welch
March 2001

Pulpfest 2012 is Mere Months Away

Feb 12, 2012 by

Pulpfest 2012 is Mere Months Away

The annual pilgrimage for pulp fans is making a pair of changes this year. First off, the con is moving to downtown Columbus. From August 9th to the 12th, the Hyatt Regency Hotel will host Pulpfest. Room rates will be $109 a night, which includes parking for one. It’ll probably be best to split your room with someone without a car. You can find more information here about the hotel and surrounding amenities.

Since 2009 the Munsey Award has been awarded to “a deserving person who has given of himself or herself for the betterment of the pulp community, be it through disseminating knowledge about the pulps or through publishing or other efforts to preserve and to foster interest in the pulp magazines we all love and enjoy.” Starting in 2012, the Munsey has been renamed The Rusty Hevelin Service Award in honor of the man who guided Pulpcon and influenced the Pulp fan world for many years.

This year’s guest of honor is author Mike Resnick. Some highlights of Pulpfest 2012 programming include “How French Literature May Have Influenced American Pulp Heroes” with Rick Lai, Christopher Paul Carey will read from his novel co-authored with Philip José Farmer, the FarmerCon VII panelists will “discuss a sampling of the Burroughsian works of Philip José Farmer,” panels on the depiction of Mars in pulp fiction and J. Allen St. John, the artist most associated with Edgar Rice Burroughs, a panel on Conan of Cimmeria and much more.

The early bird Pulpfest registration this year is $30. Children 15 & younger are free. Dealer tables are $70 or $80, which does not include Pulpfest membership.

You can get more information about Pulpfest at the website, email, RSS feed, Facebook page or Twitter account.

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A 2000 Interview with Will Murray

Feb 11, 2012 by

A 2000 Interview with Will Murray

January 17, 2000: An interview with Will Murray

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Will Murray Working to Publish New "Wild Adventures"

Aug 1, 2010 by

At the 2010 Pulpfest author Will Murray spoke to a crowed room of Doc fans eager to hear news from the latest “Kenneth Robeson.” Murray, who wrote seven Doc adventures using materials from the Lester Dent archives, announced he had secured the rights to publish new Doc Savage novels.

Will Murray (flip)

Will Murray at Pulpfest 2010
Photo CC by Chuck Welch

Murray explained Conde Nast (copyright holders for the Doc Savage character) had given him the right to publish seven new novels and reprint his seven published novels. Murray is in negotiation with a publishing house to produce the novels in paperback form — either in traditional or trade paperback size. Citing ongoing negotiations, Murray refrained from naming the publisher other than to state it wasn’t Anthony Tollin’s Sanctum Books. Tollin’s publishing house currently reprints the original Doc Savage novels from the 1930s and 40s.

The real reason I do this is to salvage the Lester Dent experience. — Will Murray

Murray unveiled a proposed cover for the first of the new novels, The Desert Demons. The cover used original art by Joe DeVito, cover artist for Murray’s seven novels published by Bantam. Murray explained the cover used a painting of Doc commissioned by Jack Juka and applicable to Murray’s story.

Murray explained the new novel was based on material unearthed during his research into Lester Dent’s papers. In 2005, Murray found a discarded Dent chapter that “introduced Doc in a whole different way.” Murray explained the chapter fit into a Doc novel he was considering, but would take it into a new direction.

Murray explained he wanted his new novels to be “over the top.” “We’re trying to take Doc somewhat out of the envelope,” Murray added. He said the stories would be similar to adventures such as those found in The Spook Legion or Repel.

Murray concluded the presentation by answering audience questions about his working methods, writing philosophy and information about the proposed seven novels. Later this week, the Hidalgo Trading Company will publish additional information about the new novels.

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Lester Dent Short Video Biography

Jan 6, 2010 by

Lester Dent Short Video Biography


A 2-minute film about Missouri pulp author Lester Dent, creator of Doc Savage. Third place winner in the Columbia Missouri 2007 Gimme Truth contest.

Interesting super-short documentary from a couple of years ago. See which Doc Savage fans you recognize from the final few seconds…

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Man of Blurb

Dec 11, 2009 by

Man of Blurb

He is an unassuming man. You’d pass him on the street without a second look. Under that façade is the most respected man of his profession. Though you’ve never heard his name before you’ve read some of his best work.

He knows most people have no idea of the years he spent perfecting his craft. The long hours. The deadlines. A marriage sacrificed. No fame or fortune. He doesn’t care. Fortune is not why he did it.

He is probably the first man you connected with Doc Savage. No, not Jim Bama. Think back to when you saw Fear Cay for the first time. You turned over that pristine copy to read:

It was all a great mystery. Who was this man called Dan Thunden who claimed he was one hundred and thirty years old? Did he really have the secret of the fountain of youth? What was this island called Fear Cay that spelled horror and death? What was the strange thing that turned men to bone? These were the mysteries that Doc Savage and his fearless crew had to solve at peril of their very lives.

Nick D’Annuzio laughs when he recalls writing that pithy description, “Asked a lot of questions — never gave many answers.” From The Man of Bronze to Up From Earth’s Center D’Annuzio was “The Man of Blurb.”

The blurb — that bit of marketing designed to lure you into buying a product. Blurb writers are not a high-priced commodity in the publishing field. Usually they’re omnivorous readers who majored in Liberal Arts. D’Annuzio did and went back to get a Masters in Marketing. He still studies today, “It’s a little more casual now. I check out the mags. ‘Next Month’ columns and the like. Oh, and the news. Amazing how much a politician can talk and how little he’ll give away in 30 seconds. Always gives the impression he’s Thomas Jefferson though.”

How did Nick and Doc get together? “When I was nine I picked up an issue of National Geographic. I skipped past the tribal pictures – too young then – and was fascinated by the writing. Not the articles. They were long and boring. I was astounded by the Next Month column. I wanted to read those articles!”

Imagine how disappointed I was when I saw that next issue. More long and boring articles. But my spirits soared with ‘Next Month.’ I knew then and there I wanted to be a blurb writer. Didn’t know the word yet, but I knew I wanted to write them. As a matter of fact, I ended up ghost writing a few of those National Geographic columns when (Richard) “Professor” Laflamme had that strange accident in 78.”

For a man who gets to the point when he writes, D’Annuzio often wanders to the point when he speaks.

“Yeah, you asked me about Doc Savage.” He pulls out a folder. He has kept all his notes. “Back in ’62 I packed up my Bug and traded notebooks at Northwestern for legal pads at Bantam. My first project was a one-shot — Doc Savage. If it took off we’d have 180 more to go. I took home the galleys for “The Man of Bronze” and worked all night.

High above the skyscrapers of New York, Doc Savage engages in deadly combat with the red-fingered survivors of an ancient, lost civilization. Then, with his amazing crew, he journeys to the mysterious “lost valley” to search for a fabulous treasure and to destroy the mysterious Red Death.

“Sure, I had to get their attention without giving anything away. That isn’t easy. I wasn’t quite into the swing of things then. Too many declarative sentences and no questions. I cringe when I read it today. That’s what they wanted though. You always make the company happy.”

D’Annuzio dug out his first draft for the blurb, “Who dares to challenge the Man of Bronze? Does Death always win? Will Doc and his team defeat Death in the Valley of the Vanished? Will the mysterious Red Death claim them? Will it snuff their lives — as it did the only man who truly knew the origin of Doc Savage — his father, Clark Savage, Senior?”

He is still proud of that work. The editors at Bantam wanted less philosophy and more action. “Get murder, danger and the bad guy in every one. That’s what they wanted. I gave it to them. I grabbed you with 50 words or less.”

D’Annuzio remembers the glory days of Doc Savage in the 60s. Sometimes they seemed to write themselves, “I’d work every night from midnight to 2 am. That’s the absolute best time to write a blurb. You’re right on the edge of sleep. Your mind can’t hold a complex thought. Words are ethereal.

Like Lester Dent, D’Annuzio had a touch of wanderlust. He once traveled the Caribbean in a seaplane and farmed a few blurbs out. He won’t reveal who, but assures us we’d recognize the name.

Cadwiller Olden was only three feet tall, but he was the most dangerous man on Earth. With his legion of brutal giants, and control of REPEL — a massive, devastating energy force — the murderous midget began an all-out assault against the defenseless bastions of the free nations. As the entire world huddles in fear, Doc Savage battles against the bizarre doll criminal, and the unleashed fury of his deadly tool of destruction, REPEL!

“He just didn’t work out. Too wordy. Writes a great horror story though.”

Ask D’Annuzio what blurb he is most proud of and you’d be surprised, “None. It wasn’t the blurbs I sweated over. They just flowed — it was the titles I put my heart into.”

D’Annuzio not only wrote blurbs for 181 adventures – he was the first blurb writer who titled his work. Each blurb featured the title in bold on the back cover. “I was able to give alternate titles to 82 of the Doc Savage novels. I started with Soul of the Mystic Mullah. They were sporadic at first. Bantam didn’t place much emphasis on them. They’d just not use the title line sometimes. After Bantam started receiving letters from my fans – yep, those days we had blurb groupies – usually Bryn Mawr girls – they didn’t miss a one from Doc Savage Out West to Trapped in a Steel Tomb.

A new editor was assigned to the Blurb Department at about the same time the Doc Doubles started. “At first I had about the same amount of lines, but gradually I had to fit into less space. The omnibuses almost killed me. No titles and usually just room for a sentence or two to grab you. I was really looking forward to the time we start publishing the new adventures. One story per book and room for a paragraph or two blurb.

It wasn’t meant to be. D’Annuzio was shocked to find that Bantam didn’t call him out of retirement for the new editions of Doc Savage. “Said they wanted new blood. Said my last one was the capstone of my career.”

A shipwrecked lunatic, a mysterious cavern, and a plump little man with a fear of fire lead Doc on his strangest and most legendary adventure ever — straight to the gates of hell itself!

His career is far from over. Brill’s Content called him for the blurbs they used in their early promotional work. Utne Reader depends on D’Annuzio as their Senior Blurb Editor. And the New Yorker has featured three all D’Annuzio blurb issues in the past two years. Still, D’Annuzio hopes someday to again pen the words “fearless crew” for Doc Savage.

* Editor’s note: We received this article with no return address. A call to Bantam revealed that the publisher had employed a Nick D’Annuzio, but not as writer. D’Annuzio was the publisher’s night janitor from 1960 until his “sudden” retirement in 1993. A source speculated D’Annuzio had moved to Florida. Others speculate the blurbs were written by Doc Savage himself. Who knows?

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